Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf 311.
(photo credit: AP)
When you detonate explosives attached to your torso, decapitating people on a bus or disemboweling little children at a kindergarten, do you go to heaven or hell? Are you a martyr or a murderer? Heroic or heinous? While the answer might seem straightforward to some, it clearly flummoxed Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, he of the Ground Zero mosque controversy, when it was asked of him by Barbara Walters in her 2006 TV special on heaven.
In response to the question, Rauf said, “One of the things we are taught is never to say somebody will go to hell or somebody will go to heaven. It is up to God to decide.”
Hmmm. Then allow me to play God for a moment.
Suicide bombers go to hell. Period.
There. That’s settled. Their souls are dispatched to the darkest reaches
of the blackest netherworld, where they suffer for all eternity in the
anal cavities of the universe, separated forever from God.
As President Barack Obama might say, let me be clear.
I bear no animosity to Rauf, but find his piety in refusing to speculate
as to the final celestial resting place of cold-blooded mass murderers
both amoral and disingenuous. If men and women who blow up children and
defenseless civilians end up in heaven, then heaven is merely a
euphemism for hell. If God would reward those who dismember innocent
passengers on a bus with high explosives by granting them eternal bliss,
then the Creator is in league with the devil, and deserves not our
worship but our ridicule, not our praise but our contempt.
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FORTUNATELY, THE God that I as a Jew worship, and which is the same God
that most of my Muslim brothers and sisters worship, is not the God Rauf
discussed. My God is merciful to the innocent and compassionate to the
forlorn, but judges the truly wicked and punishes the heartless and
cruel. A protector of women and children, He will visit eternal
damnation on cowardly assassins who make them into widows and orphans.
Refusing to disassociate the God of Abraham and Muhammad from suicide
bombers makes a mockery of all those who purport to represent Islam.
Islam is a moral religion. It believes in right and wrong. Like Judaism
and Christianity, it condemns murder. Like any moral system, it
champions life. So it is incumbent upon Rauf to state unequivocally that
suicide bombers will receive the retribution that’s coming to them.
The foremost sin of any religious leader is moral relativism, a failure to lead in the face of ethical anarchy.
A rabbi, priest or imam has a responsibility to provide definitive moral
direction about events, people and places that must fall under the
rubric of either Right or Wrong. If we were to ask Rauf whether
unrepentant pedophiles go to heaven, would he be ambivalent? A
preparedness to criticize one’s own community when some of its members
are guilty of serious moral lapses is the hallmark of courageous
leadership and religious integrity. When in February 1994 Baruch
Goldstein slaughtered 29 innocent Muslims in a Hebron mosque, some
rabbis shamed themselves by citing mitigating circumstances. They
shunned any comparison between Goldstein and an Islamic suicide bomber.
He was a doctor whose friends had been stabbed, they said, and so he
snapped. He saw too many Jews murdered, so he became unhinged. He was
privy to secret intelligence that the Muslims were about to slaughter
the Jews of Hebron, so he struck a preemptive blow.
Every one of these cowardly excuses was a betrayal of a rabbi’s
responsibility to teach and enforce the Ten Commandments, among which
the most serious is “Thou shalt not murder.” Goldstein lost his mind
when he saw too many Jews murdered in terror attacks? Really? Then why
didn’t the Jews of Hitler’s Europe, immersed in a cauldron where 15,000
of their brethren were gassed and cremated every day for four years,
ever blow up a German kindergarten? Why didn’t the Jews of Soviet
Russia, who lived for generations under the brutal boot of the KGB, ever
detonate a Russian bus? Because the Torah commands us to punish only
There is no excuse for murder. Under any circumstances. Ever. Killing is
justified only in self-defense. Goldstein, whatever virtue he accrued
as a doctor who saved lives, forfeited all when he decided to become a
mass murderer and an abomination to Judaism.
But having said this, let’s be fair.
There have been precious few Baruch Goldsteins and all too many Islamic
suicide bombers. And if high-profile “moderate” Islamic leaders like
Rauf fail to condemn them in the harshest terms, then Islam risks
becoming an accessory to murder. The suicide bomber affronts every truth
Islam claims to represent. That a Western imam, who enjoys the freedoms
and liberties of the United States, is undecided on the question of
whether suicide bombers go to heaven is deeply troubling.
And if Rauf feels he has been misquoted or misunderstood, then let him
immediately explain himself or correct the quote. Better yet, let him
apologize for his appalling lack of judgment and the unfortunate
desecration he has brought to a great faith.The writer hosts ‘The Shmuley Show’ on
77 WABC in NYC. He is the founder of This World: The Values Network,
and is the author, most recently, of Renewal: A Guide to the
Values-Filled Life. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
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